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The Humble Indian Pickle- Ayurveda and Pickles (Aachar or Athanu)

Updated: Jul 4, 2021

⁠An Indian pickle is different from the American pickle we get here in the form of sliced or whole cucumbers.

In his book, A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food, the late food historian KT Achaya, notes that pickles fall into the category of ‘cooking without fire’; however, many pickles today do use heating or fire to some extent during preparation.⁠

Pickles in India are of three basic types: those preserved in vinegar; those preserved in salt; and those preserved in oil. In India, oil is a popular medium used for pickling. The process of pickling is one of the best ways to preserve a food item. Once preserved, the pickled food will not need refrigeration, and so it travels well, making it ideal for long-distance journeys.⁠

The process of making Achar/Pickle can be quick and seasonal based on the available ingredients. There are a variety of options ranging from Mango/Aam, Chili, Lime, Gooseberry- the list goes on. Some South Indian states also serve non-veg varieties made of Fish, Shrimp, Beef, etc. As essential as salt and pepper is to the American table, Achar has graced our family's table for generations.⁠

In Ayurveda, the sour taste is a combination of Earth and Fire elements. It generally lowers Vata dosha while increasing digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients.

Pickling is a great way to include fermented food, a probiotic, in the diet. When veggies are fermented naturally, it helps the lactobacilli present on the surface of the veggies to multiply and create lactic acid which pickles and preserves the vegetables and promotes health. Pickles transform plain everyday food into a delight by enhancing the flavor. Remember having a mixed vegetable pickle with aloo ka paratha or a lemon pickle with dal and rice or khichadi?

Turmeric Ginger Pickle


  • ½ cup chopped fresh ginger

  • ½ cup chopped fresh turmeric

  • 2 serrano peppers, finely chopped (omit for Pitta)

  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 to 4 lemons) (use lime for Pitta)

  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil or olive oil

  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seed, whole

  • 1½ teaspoons pink Himalayan salt or mineral salt (use 1 teaspoon for Kapha)


1. Wash and peel the fresh turmeric and ginger. Using a sharp knife, chop the turmeric and ginger into fine, small pieces. Add the ingredients to a clean and dry glass pint jar that has an air tight lid.

2. Wash and finely chop the serrano pepper. Add this to the jar.

3. Squeeze the lemons and add the fresh juice to the jar.

4. Add in the oil, cumin seed, and salt.

5. Using a clean and dry spoon, stir all of the ingredients together until they have been evenly blended. If the liquid does not cover all of the dry ingredients, add in more lemon juice until there is complete coverage.

6. Place the lid onto the jar and let the pickle sit at room temperature for 2 days (only 1 day if the temperature is over 75º). Shake the jar well at least once daily.

7. After 1 to 2 days of steeping at room temperature, place the pickle in the refrigerator for up to one month. Please store it in an airtight glass jar and make sure to use a clean, dry spoon with every use. If food or water gets into the pickle, this may lead to contamination and spoilage.

Traditional Mix Vegetable Pickle Recipe


  • ½ cup each of cauliflower, carrots, radish washed, dried, and cut into small pieces

  • ½ cup of fresh peas washed and dried

  • ½ tsp chilli powder

  • ½ tsp turmeric powder

  • 2 tsp mustard seeds. Powder half of these seeds

  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds

  • ¼ tsp of asafoetida powder

  • 1tbsp oil (sunflower or olive oil)

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • 1 tbsp salt


  • Mix all the vegetable pieces and peas.

  • Add chilly, turmeric powder, and salt.

  • Add 1 tsp of water to the mustard powder and whisk. Add it to the mixture.

  • Heat the oil, add asafoetida, and mustard seeds. Let it crackle.

  • Add fenugreek seeds.

  • Let them cook for 2 minutes and add the seasoning to the vegetable mixture.

  • Add lemon juice and enjoy.

  • It remains good for 3- 4 days in winters if kept outside. Do store in the fridge in summers.


Pickling is not difficult, but you need to follow the given procedure to get good results. Here are some tips.

  1. Select fresh vegetables and fruits

  2. Wash and dry thoroughly

  3. Roast spices on low heat to remove moisture

  4. Use clean utensils and tools

  5. Store pickles in clean and dry glass jars

  6. Use a clean dry spoon to serve a pickle

  7. Store the pickles as suggested (in the fridge or room temperature)

Sweet Lime Pickle


  • 2 tsp cumin seeds

  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped ginger

  • 1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida)

  • 6 whole limes (Altenatively, you can opt for lemon here make lemony pickle, you may need to adjust on the sweetness level depending on the variety of lemons you choose)

  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder

  • 1/2 tsp mustard seed

  • 2 tbsp raw sugar (You can use jaggery as an alternative)

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil or olive oil


  • Boil the limes till cooked and cooled. Squeeze the juice.

  • Grind skins in a food processor with salt, chilies, ginger, and cumin.

  • Mix with sugar and lime juice. Traditional recipe calls for jaggery.

  • Fry remaining spices in oil. Combine with lime mixture.

  • Eat immediately, or let sit for 3-4 days at room temperature so that the flavor is more evenly distributed.

  • Store in the fridge after 3-4 days once the pickle is ready.

Amla or Gooseberry Pickle

Amla is the common name for the fruit of the Amalaki plant (Embilica officinalis). It is considered as one of the most potent fruit in Ayurveda. Also a Tridoshic fruit which means it benefits all three doshas.

One of the marvels of Amalaki is that it contains all 6 tastes except salt. Thus this fruit mitigate:

  • vata by its sour taste

  • pitta by its sweet taste and cold virya (energy) and

  • kapha by the dry quality and astringent taste.

According to the studies, the average Amla fruit (22.5gm) contains 121mg of vitamin C. The average orange (130 grams) has about 70mg of vitamin C.

So one little Amla berry is packed with more vitamin C than the orange.

P.S. I add one whole amla (gooseberry) in my smoothie everyday. Try it and see the change for yourself.


  1. Roughly chopped Amla fruit - 4 cups

  2. Rock salt - 1/2 cup

  3. Sea salt - 1 cup

  4. Turmeric powder - 1/3 cup

  5. Dry roasted ground fenugreek powder - 2 tsp Dry roast until it is very good smell and brownish red colour. Then grind to powder.

  6. Dry roasted ground cumin powder - 5 tsp at least

  7. Lime Juice - 1 tbsp

Spices to add it at the end:

  1. ghee

  2. mustard seeds - 1 tsp.

  3. cumin seeds - 2 tsp.

  4. fenugreek seeds - 1 tsp.

  5. garlic - 3 cloves finely chopped.

  6. curry leaves - 8 leaves chopped.

  7. dry chilli - 2/3 chopped (optional).


Day 1

  1. Finely chop Amla fruit and remove the seeds until you have 4 cups approximately.

  2. Add turmeric power, roasted cumin powder and roasted grounded fenugreek powder and mix well.

  3. Leave in a bowl loosely covered with a lid closed for 3 days (72 hours). Mix well at least a few times a day.

After three days, on the fourth day

  1. Add rock salt and sea salt. Mix well.

  2. Leave in a bowl with the lid closed for 3 more days (72 hours). Mix well at least a few times a day.

(A lot of salt preserves cooks the pickle). Last day after 6 total days

  1. Now the pickle is just about ready but requires one last step.

  2. In a pan, heat ghee then fry in the ghee:

    • mustard seeds till they pop.

    • Then cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds till they pop.

    • garlic, curry leaves and dry chili until the garlic becomes golden color.

  • Store the pickle in a glass jar and it is ready to be used.

  • This pickle gets better with age when stored in a glass jar.

Let me know in the comments if you tried making any of these pickle recipes and which ones are your favorite. The pdf of all the recipes are shared here for you to save and reuse later. I would respectfully ask you if you are using any of my recipes to republish ore reuse for commercial use- please redirect to my website as that would help me to grow my blog.

amla or gooseberry pickle
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pickle recipes
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